ENVIRONMENT

Sukhumvit most POLLUTED

Only seven of BMA's 60 'green roads' have safe air, probe finds Bangkok's Sukhumvit Road is the most polluted among the 60 major roads that the city administration has earmarked for improvement.

According to the latest survey, conducted from July to September by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the air on Sukhumvit has over 300 micrograms of dust particles per cubic metre (mpcm), far above the standard of 120 mpcm.

Sukhumvit Road starts near the heart of Bangkok's business and tourist districts and runs eastwards into Samut Prakan province.

High levels of small dust particles are regarded as a risk factor for residents'
health, especially for the young, elderly and sufferers from respiratory diseases, according to BMA's Air Quality and Noise Management Division.

Of the 60 major roads previously surveyed by the BMA, only Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Henri Dunant, Thai-Chinese Friendship, Rajvithee, Yaowarat and Rajdamnoen roads were classified as "green", meaning the air quality was safe.

The remaining 53 were classified as "yellow", meaning they had some impact on health.

"We hope to improve air quality in these places," said deputy Bangkok governor Bannasopit Mekvichai.

Although the city's Air Quality Index has improved over the past year, there is still room for improvement, and the BMA hopes more roads will be upgraded in terms of air quality.

The city started its air-quality management project with 10 "green roads" in 2004. In 2005, 60 major roads were covered, and the first Air Quality Index inspection measuring fine particulate matter and total suspension particles was conducted.

Theera Prasitthipol, deputy director of the Environment Office, said previous opinion polls had shown that most respondents were moderately satisfied with the air-quality improvement project. However, about 90 per cent of respondents complained about too much dust and exhaust fumes on city roads.

Sukhumvit's dustiness is largely due to heavy traffic and the road's physical environment, which does not allow sufficient ventilation, plus construction of a 5.2-km extension of the Skytrain mass-transit system from On-nuj to Sukhumvit 107.

Other dusty roads include Somdet Phrachao Taksin Road on the other side of Bangkok, where a Skytrain extension is also under construction, and Ramkhamhaeng Road and Prachacheun Road, both of which usually have heavy traffic.

Theera said construction of the mass-transit infrastructure on these major roads, as well as work on new housing projects and many new cars have contributed to an increase in dust and small particles in Bangkok's air.

At present, the city's measures to manage this problem include cleaning roads more frequently and planting more trees on traffic islands and footpaths as well as near bus stops to reduce carbon dioxide. All district offices are required to plant more trees and wash streets in their jurisdiction twice a week.

Air quality is measured three times a year using sensors installed at designated locations for 24-hour monitoring.

The BMA also works with city police and the Pollution Control Department to take legal action against vehicles spewing black smoke and/or making excessive noise.

Builders are also asked to protect the environment by covering construction sites properly to contain dust and small particles.

Wandee Thongmak, 54, who lives on Kaset-Nawamin Road, said she was satisfied with the city's air-quality project since there were now more trees planted on streets and frequent road-cleaning. "Still, air pollution occasionally gets worse, especially during rush hours," she added.

Saijai Boonreungsri, 38, a street vendor on Din Sor Road near City Hall, said air quality was not a problem around City Hall due to lots of trees and free-flowing traffic.

Mayuree Sukyingcharoenwong

The Nation